Meditation and Veganism: Making the Connection — plus a Q & A with Russell Simmons
Excerpted from Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple* by Russell Simmons. Reprinted by arrangement with Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company, © 2014. I used to get down with the best of them. I’ve often said that back in the day I’d eat ribs, flanks, chitlins, buffalo wings, pig’s feet . . . probably even an elephant’s ass if you had put it on a plate in front of me. I never spent a moment considering what sort of damage that food was wreaking on me because I had grown up listening to the world instead of my body. And the world told me that greasy, fatty meats should make me happy and content. So that’s what I believed, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Until I woke up.
I use the term “wake up” because I believe that eating meat actually represents unconscious behavior. We all know in our hearts that eating meat is wrong—bad for what it does to our bodies and terrible for the suffering it creates for the animals that are killed on our behalf. When the Bible spoke of giving man “dominion” over the animals, the intention wasn’t to cosign an industrial farming industry that slaughters more than ten billion land animals in the United States each year alone. A farming industry that is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. I suspect the damage eating meat is causing is why Albert Einstein once said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
Yet often until we learn how to be still through a tool like meditation, we can’t hear that truth in our hearts because we’re so distracted by the noise of those who would have us believe eating meat is okay. I can say without reservation that I would have never become a vegan if I hadn’t started meditating first. Without meditation, I would have continued to be a sheep. A follower who kept engaging in harmful acts because everyone else was doing it too.
Meditation gave me both the clarity to see that I didn’t like harming animals and then the confidence to actually act on that information. Once I woke up, I could see that passing out on the sofa after dinner isn’t a good thing. That there must be a reason my body could barely function after I ate meat. Once I woke up, I could look at a rib and make that connection that it actually came from an animal that suffered very badly.
Thankfully I woke up before I could do any further damage to myself, or even worse, pass those habits along to my children. And hopefully after reading this section, if you still eat meat, you’ll wake up too.
In this brief Q & A, Russell Simmons graciously delved deeper into the connection between being a meditator as well as a committed vegan:
Nava: I really appreciate how you connected your vegan lifestyle with your meditation practice in this book. Can you expand any more on how you had this epiphany, and how long you’ve been vegan?
Russell Simmons: I’ve been a vegan for close to 20 years now. I first became aware of it after taking yoga classes at Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York. One of its founders, and a great teacher to me, Sharon Gannon was a vegan and that certainly inspired me. But it was also that as I began to slow down and become awake through yoga, the less selfish and more compassionate I became. So as I became more awake to the incredible suffering we inflict on animals, the less I wanted to be part of it. Once I was awake to that, I didn’t look back.
Nava: Do you see any sort of trend for dedicated meditators to give up animal foods (other than Ellen Degeneres!), or is it more that you’re trying to get meditators to connect the dots?
Russell Simmons: I won’t say it’s inevitable, but I think it’s highly likely that someone who meditates is going to connect those dots. Because again, as you become fully awake through meditation, you’re going to begin to question and re-examine a lot of the things you just blindly accepted before. And I would argue one of biggest things we blindly accept in this country is that it’s “OK” to eat meat.
And I’m not even talking about the physical issues from eating meat—like increased likelihood of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. I’m talking about being blind to the karmic issues raised by eating meat. Being blind to the fact that you’re contributing to great suffering. Being blind to the fact that by eating meat, you’re contributing to global warming and pollution on a massive scale.
When you meditate, your lenses will be clear and you’ll see what you’re participating in. And rather than keep going down that path, you’ll make a change.
Nava: Conversely, is there any advantage for someone who is already vegan to slide into the meditation mindset? In other words, is the general self-awareness and compassion ascribed to vegans helpful at all in gaining the desire and discipline to meditate?
Russell Simmons: If you practice self-awareness and compassion, then you’re already a meditator! You might not call yourself one, but you are. Because you’ve already found a way to tap slow down, become centered and tap into your higher self. I would just encourage someone like that to become more aware of the practice. To commit to 20 minutes of sitting in silence each day you that you can extend that peace and tranquility that you’ve already tapped into. I think if most vegans even meditated just one time, they would be hooked!
Master entrepreneur, original hip-hop mogul, and New York Times bestselling author Russell Simmons shares the most fundamental key to success—meditation—and guides readers to use stillness as a powerful tool to access their potential in Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple.* He is also the author of Super Rich* and Do You!*
*This post contains affiliate links. If the product is purchased by linking through this review, VegKitchen receives a modest commission, which helps maintain our site and helps it to continue growing!